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CONCERT (100 min): 1. Andante 2. Adagio 3. Memories 4. Rondo 5. Sonata 6. Improvisation PERFORMER: Marek Tadeusz Stefanski - church organ
Prolusion. One of the most important events in the cultural life of any of our native progressive music lovers took place back on June 21 when the remarkable avant-garde French band Volapuk played their concert in the open-air scene of Seattle Park in my hometown (Tashkent and Seattle are twin cities), about which, unfortunately, I've learned too late - already after the musicians' departure! But - since then I routinely look over the "Theatrical Tashkent" heading in a newspaper I receive, which has finally resulted in my appearance at a concert the renowned Polish organist Marek STEFANSKI did back on October 1 in our Catholic Cathedral, located not far from my home. The maestro began playing organ when he was 14, and since 1999 he has been teaching an organ class in Krakow's conservatory. Apart from being a frequent participant of various organ music festivals in Europe, America and Russia, Marek has done numerous solo concerts in various countries on both sides of the Atlantic. His discography numbers 9 CDs at the moment. Prior to scrambling :-) through a review as such (I was ill for about a month though), I'd also like to mention that "Pan" is, say, a Polish equivalent to "Mister".
Analysis. Before about 110, Pan Stefanski had played a set of six works (whose shortened titles I've put in the list above) named "The music of German classicism and Polish romanticism". Since the pieces are written in different periods of the development of organ music, the whole collection draws quite a diverse stylistic picture where, though, the dominance of a conservative Baroque approach over a more modern 'gallant' style is more than merely obvious. The latter words remain relevant regarding Marek's adherence to classicism in execution, which - in conjunction with his highest professionalism - becomes his calling card as a performer. Striking also is his ability to feel deeply the structure of each part of the act, which imparts an extraordinary breadth and diversity to the entire concert. The opening number, Andante, is a multi-part composition in fact. Just as is in Bach's analogous works, each constituent of this sonata is distinctly observable and has its own (although classically-traditional) title, namely Prelude, Andante, Introduction, Grave and Fugue, each playing its own special role in the construction of the whole thing. Not surprisingly, the overall emotional palette here comprises plenty of different moods and ranges from pronouncedly dramatic colors to solemn ones. As well as its predecessor, Adagio (Opus 168) is issued from the pen of Josef Gabriel Reinenberger. Since this cut is woven out of patterns combining grief and hope, it reminds me of the Great Johannes Sebastian as well - or, to be more precise, of some of those Bach's works that are dedicated to Jesus Christ, symbolizing the highest compositional standards. By the way, Mecislaw Sujinski's Improvisation on the Polish church song Sacred God evokes similar memories, although this piece is richer in dramatic shades, as well as dynamic contrasts, e.g. loud / quiet, powerful / silent. Memories of Sistine Chapel, written by Italian composer Giuseppe (sorry I forgot his last name!), had certainly made an indelible impression on Ferenz Liszt since he decided to make his own rendering of it. Another multi-layered composition, it is as strongly varied in mood as the piece described first. The melodically pronounced Adagio & Rondo is the only totally animated tune in the set, which is no surprise though, as this is Mozart's thing, plus the one he'd penned before "Requiem". While playing it, Marek reaches the full opening of the organ and, therefore, very successfully reproduces all the richness of the piece, some lack in diversity of its emotions (as mentioned, they're almost exclusively cheerful) being well compensated for by his proper use of all the dynamic possibilities of the instrument. Mendelson's Sonata No-6 is almost as accessible as the preceding opus, but varies in mood, in places being reminiscent of still the same Great Bach. Oh almost forgot: the instrument in the cathedral is from the Ziegfrid Merten series; it was delivered from Germany in 2001.
Conclusion. It is hard to express with words all the beauty of a live concert - its sonic virginity, free of any costs of a recorded material, raised to the power of the breath of a real church hall. This concert left an ineffaceable impression on me. Marek's somewhat rational approach to the interpretation of original compositions has not in the least overshadowed his striking individuality as a performer. Besides, his ability to adequately reproduce the essence of each piece prepossessed me still more in his mastery's favor. The man's level of execution is beyond praise indeed, so his play was more than once honored with ovations. You are welcome, Marek, to return to Tashkent whenever you can! Of course it would be great if any other renowned organ players would visit us, provincials:-), too - to please us with their mastery. Related review.
VM: December 22, 2006
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